Pirates acquire catcher Cervelli from Yankees |

Pirates acquire catcher Cervelli from Yankees

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Preparing for the possibility of playing next season without Russell Martin, the Pirates acquired catcher Francisco Cervelli from the New York Yankees.

The Pirates on Wednesday set themselves up to move on without free agent Russell Martin by acquiring catcher Francisco Cervelli from the New York Yankees.

Reliever Justin Wilson was swapped for Cervelli, who was never able to lock down an everyday job over seven seasons in New York.

“This (trade) doesn’t change our approach to aggressively pursue Martin,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “But if we don’t re-sign Russ, we feel this gives us a quality alternative.”

Huntington said that if Martin signs elsewhere, Cervelli will go into spring training with an opportunity to be the primary catcher ahead of Chris Stewart and former first-round pick Tony Sanchez.

Cervelli, Martin and Stewart all played for the Yankees before joining the Pirates.

Cervelli hit .301 with an .802 OPS in 146 at-bats this year as Brian McCann’s backup. After making $700,000 this season, Cervelli is arbitration-eligible for the first time.

Although he made his big league debut in 2008, Cervelli played in only 250 games for the Yankees because of injuries. He broke his wrist in a collision at home plate, was sidelined by a strained quad and also suffered a concussion after being hit in the head by a pitch.

In 2011, Cervelli was set to open the season as Martin’s backup but missed most of April with a broken foot. Last season, Cervelli battled migraines and a sore hamstring.

In August 2013, Cervelli was slapped with a 50-game suspension after he was connected to the Biogenesis lab scandal involving performance-enhancing drugs.

Sanchez still a catcher

Sanchez this week arrived in the Dominican Republic to play winter ball. Although the Pirates experimented with playing him at first base last season at Triple-A Indianapolis, Huntington said Sanchez will only catch in winter ball.

“Tony has made progress in some areas defensively and still has a way to go in others,” Huntington said. “We remain open-minded about (keeping) him at catcher.”

Alvarez at first base?

Huntington said he is aware of Andrew McCutchen’s recent interview with the Tribune-Review, in which McCutchen said the Pirates should scrap their platoon setup at first base.

“We’d love to have a big bopper at first base,” Huntington said. “In an ideal world, we’d have the same eight guys on the field every day. But, in a small market, that sometimes can be unrealistic.”

Will Pedro Alvarez, who has shown to be a defensive liability at third, be the full-time first baseman next year?

“His intent is to remain an option at third base,” Huntington said. “We’re certainly open to that. We may be a club where guys bounce around multiple positions. There’s a lot of good that can come out of that. We want to put our best team on the field. If Pedro is our best option (at first base), we’ll go with that.”

Huntington said offseason developments, including Alvarez’s continued recovery from a foot injury, will dictate where he stands on the depth chart at the start of spring training.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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